The commute

It was a dark and wintry morning and Jordan was at the fourth traffic light of his normal, daily commute. Or so it would seem. He drove precisely and his constant dance between mirror and dead-angle checks had tones of paranoia. Even though it was only early morning, his lack of sleep made his eyes almost sink into the back of his skull. His gaze was weighted down by fatigued, deep, dark circles that made him look older than his driver’s license stated.

As he progressed through traffic, he felt as if the steady flow of cars and their precisely shared pace had tones of cattle marching to a slaughterhouse; all in a commute done numerous times before, all stuck inside these thick skulls native to our species. He kept on checking his speed limit to make sure he fit right into the picture. All of us, a somewhat content herd, rummaging around whatever valued-ridden stretch of land we decide to call our pasture.

His hectic train of fragmented thoughts was interrupted by the vibration of his phone. ‘Not again’, he thought. ‘Why won’t she just give up?’ As he picked up the phone his eyes caught sight of a police car joining his lane from a side road. He blinked in exasperation, only to set his sight back on the road as naturally as possible. He put his phone down and tried his hardest to keep his sight off the rear-view mirror. ‘Maybe he hasn’t noticed’ – he hoped. ‘Probably on his phone too’. The idea amused Jordan and he let out a genuinely seldom laugh. He thought about the last time he laughed out loud. ‘Maybe if I laughed more, life would have smiled more at me.’ A newfound positivity shined momentarily in his mind, like the first rays of sunlight slip through the wooden cracks of an old, dark cellar.

Maybe he didn’t have to go through with it. ‘I could turn around right now’, he reflected. The idea floated in his mind for a couple of seconds until the red and blue flashes brought him back into the cabin of the beaten-up sedan.

He pulled over to the side of the road and kept his hands on the steering wheel. His brow felt as if it were burning and the first signs of perspiration started giving in. Even though his mind was racing at the speed of light, he looked as calm and composed as a monk when the policeman approached his window.

‘Howdy.’

‘Morning, officer’.

‘D’you have any idea why I pulled you over today, sir?’

‘I wouldn’t have a clue.’ Jordan replied. His certainty and composure were only contrasted by the sweat running down his forehead. ‘Maybe he won’t notice’, he thought once more.

‘Your car registration expired last week. I’ll pretend not to have seen you hold your phone and let that slide. Have you any means of renewing your registration while I run your driver’s licence through the system?’

‘Sure thing.’ Jordan said. He avoided staring into the officer’s eyes but remained disturbingly calm. ‘Car registration’, he thought. He hadn’t been able to deal with his present for the past weeks, let alone plan ahead. It wouldn’t matter soon. He gazed into his rear-view mirror as the policeman checked his details.

‘I could just drive off right now. Just let go, and then it would be all done with. Just. Let. Go. No more stupid bills to pay, damn, no more nine-to-five-seven-days-a-week.’ The thought lingered around and was becoming more and more of a reality until the officer came back.

‘Sir.’ He said.

There was a long pause and Jordan, still holding his steering wheel, understood he would have to look him in the eye. ‘Yes officer?’

‘Will you still be able to renew it right now?’

‘What? Oh, the license. Surely. I will do it on my phone right now.’

Their gazes were now locked in each other’s. The silence of the fleeting dusk was only smothered by the constant flow of cars. They stared at one another for what felt like too long for the officer, who finally said: ‘Are you alright?’

Jordan let the question sink in. What did he mean by ‘alright’? He felt nothing but numbness, watching from afar, like a puppeteer who has lost all his enthusiasm for the chain of uneventful happenings he orchestrates. The idea of opening himself to a cop on the side of the road made him almost laugh in what came out as a deep grunt, to which he added: ‘I am perfectly fine officer, thanks for asking.’

The lethargic response made the cop believe this was just another question in a sea of endless doubts. As the car drove off, Jordan felt himself hit the deep end.

It was time.

He looked at his phone once more and threw it in the back seat.

His heart started beating faster.

He got out of the car with a crestfallen manner to him, like a child who is told to clean up its room. His heart rate kept on increasing. Sweat was flowing wildly down his forehead now, and the back of his wet shirt stuck to his frail back. This was it. The culminating of a life of small joys and big mistakes. He took a long and deep breath. As he opened the trunk, he felt his heart pumping out of his chest.

He looked at the inside with a bewildered look in his eyes. This. Was. It. Tears were now flowing like waterfalls down his cheeks. His eyes shone like spotlights as if he had the answer to all his problems in the back of his car. Or so he thought.

His arms struggled in a final effort of a never-ending insomnia, and Jordan was a spectator in the final act of his life as he picked up the rifle.

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